The Golden Globes, like the Critics Choice, had their ballots turned in before the Oscar nominations. That meant that they reflected the moment just before the buzz shifted. Argo won big at the Critics Choice and it won big at the Globes, taking Best Picture Drama and Best Director. But Les Miserables actually won the most Golden Globes. Imagine, if you will, outstanding Oscar ballots today. If Oscar ballots had been turned in after the DGA and after the Globes, there’s a good chance that, at the very least, Ben Affleck and Tom Hooper would have been nominated for Best Director. Such is one of the many odd twists and turns of this race.
It’s probably fairly likely that Argo could have built up momentum from this moment in time that might have carried it through to the Oscar win. Come to that, Argo might still win in a total freak show year never before seen in Oscar history; even Driving Miss Daisy had the distinction of A) having no DGA nor Oscar nor Globe nomination for Director and B) was placed in the comedy category. Argo is only missing the Oscar nomination for Director. It’s entirely possible that film can be the one that defies history in this very strange year.
On the other hand, the Globes have been oddly off in their predictions of Oscar — the only films since 2002 that have gone on to win the Oscar have been Chicago, Slumdog Millionaire, Return of the King and the Artist. Two in Musical/Comedy, two in drama. All of them had nominations in the director categories at the Globes, the DGA and the Oscar. So we throw up our hands yet again.
But the highlights of the evening were scattered throughout. My Top Ten:
1. Bill Clinton as the surprise guest to introduce what he called “Steven Spielberg’s extraordinary Lincoln.” No matter what happens with Lincoln this year, no matter how many fanboys diss it, no matter how unpopular it is with Hollywood types, it has that. Lincoln has woven itself into the political pulse of our land. And yes, most people don’t really give a damn about that. Love and a bit with a dog, that’s what the people want. But it’s been to the White House, into the Senate and how, has been introduced by Bill Clinton. Even if it never wins a single award, it has secured its place in history. One of my own goals this year, and every year for the rest of my life is to not let the awards race ruin the films that I believe to be great. At the top of that list for 2012 is Lincoln. Every curated frame of this film is the work of masters. Somehow President Clinton reminded me of the importance of the film, of President Lincoln and the power of storytelling.
2. Jodie Foster’s humane, entertaining, electrifying speech as she received the Cecil B. DeMille award. It may have been among the finest speeches ever delivered on a showbiz awards show. She talked about her work, her family, those she holds most dear — she talked about privacy, about the shifting times, and about her love life, in a funny, indirect way. Foster is one of the true blues, brilliant, honest and funny. She brought down the house and everyone to tears. After that speech, any petty thought I had about the awards up to then and the awards to follow vanished; we must never forget the bigger picture and we must never forget how little these awards really matter. The films, the art is the thing. The people, their words and their work are the thing. The rest is just a dog and pony show.
3. Anne Hathaway taking time out of her speech to acknowledge Sally Field. This was an important moment, I thought, in the ongoing narrative of the awards race. One of the more interesting moments early in the race happened when Field and Hathaway joined other actresses to have what turned out to be quite a meaningful roundtable discussion last November. It seemed to me that Hathaway was listening to Field then, and that made her want to point out how important are the actresses who came before her. I found it to be a gracious gesture on a night when such gestures were rare.
4. Jessica Chastain paying tribute to Kathryn Bigelow for having the courage to bring Maya to the big screen. Sadly, even after calling this the Year of the Woman, the HFPA once again shut Bigelow out of their top awards. Partly because, let’s face it, they love George Clooney and Ben Affleck (who doesn’t) but also, they don’t tend to like dark films. That they loved The Social Network remains an enduring mystery. But Chastain took the opportunity to talk about Bigelow, which again, was a gracious thing to do.
5. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler didn’t pull any punches. Their jokes were scathing at times but they wielded the spears gracefully. Always funny and better than any Globes host I can remember in recent history. The best joke of the night was in reference to torture and Bigelow and having been married to James Cameron.
6. Jennifer Garner thanking Grant Heslov and George Clooney after husband Ben Affleck neglected to mention them, which was sweet and funny.
7. Daniel Day-Lewis.
8. Bill Clinton. Oh, did I already say Bill Clinton?
9. Hugh Jackman winning. I may not be the biggest fan of Les Miserables but his work in the film is notable. It seemed to have been the part he was born to play and it was nice to see him get recognition.
10. Quentin Tarantino and Christoph Waltz winning for Django Unchained. The original screenplay win for Tarantino probably bodes well for his chances at the Oscar — and now he might finally beat Mark Boal who bested him 3 years ago. Although they both have to face down Michael Haneke, which means there’s a chance they both could lose. Christoph Waltz is brilliant and debonair. Always. He gives great speeches too, but he’s won too recently I think to become the frontrunner again on Oscar night.
Jennifer Lawrence was charming, even though she admitted to being under the weather, and Life of Pi had to settle with award for Mychael Danna’s Original Score. Good thing Ang Lee is so zen. It’s worth remembering that tonight was just a party where they hand out statues. The 100-odd members of the Hollywood Foreign Press pick what they like, like everyone else. It is nothing more or less than that. The Argo team has a moment in the spotlight, a well deserved one at that. And the race continues to roll forward, destination totally unknown. We should enjoy the unpredictability — we never know when it will return to the same old dance.